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The Texas sheriff who oversees the jail where Sandra Bland apparently killed herself said Friday that he now thinks she should have received more attention from mental health experts.
"Sitting here right now, yes, I think at the bare minimum probably the local health authorities should have been called and let them interview her," Waller County Sheriff R. Glenn Smith told reporters.
But Smith also said that the guards who were on duty while Bland was in his jail "are adamant and comfortable that when we talked to her and observed her throughout the weekend, they saw no signs of depression."
Bland, 28, was found dead in her Texas jail cell on July 13, three days after a trooper pulled her over for failing to signal a lane change and ended up arresting her for assaulting him. The arrest has been criticized as the result of a needless escalation by the officer during a minor traffic stop.
Jail intake forms filled out for Bland appear to show that she told staff she tried to commit suicide last year, and that she had been "very depressed" in the past. But the answers on the forms are inconsistent.
Bland hanged herself with a plastic trash can liner that was in her cell, medical examiners said. Jailers did not perform a face-to-face wellness check every hour as required, and instead used an intercom to check on Bland when an in-person check was not done, Smith has said.
Bland’s family and supporters have doubted the official account of her death. They said Bland had just gotten a new job and it is unlikely she would have killed herself. The Texas Rangers are investigating her death.
Smith said he was "completely confident" that there was no foul play in Bland's death. But he also vowed to tighten up procedures for handling prisoners who may be at risk of harming themselves.
The measures could include having supervisors review intake paperwork and having local mental health officials make daily reviews of prisoners.
"Does it help Miss Bland’s situation? No, it don’t," Smith said. "But can we take something at least in that honor of her and make it better? I’d be a idiot if I did not make that effort to do so."